Babies are dependent on their parents for all their practical needs, but as the child’s cognitive development goes into overdrive and they become mobile, they naturally become more independent. Parents have to find a balance between letting their child explore the world and exercise their newfound independence, while keeping them safe and maintaining a connection. This can be a fine line to walk, as being overprotective can lead to an emotionally clingy child, while being too relaxed could put them at risk. Here are some tips to keep in mind when trying to raise an independent toddler.
Play games that separate you
Before they are walking or talking, you can introduce your child to the idea that even when they cannot see you, they are still safe. This happens when you play simple games of peek-a-boo or hide and seek, and helps the child to understand that you are still there for them even when you are out of their sight.
Encourage independent eating habits
When they are moving on to solid food, you can help your child to become a more independent eater and to try a more varied diet by giving them a selection of small pieces of food and letting them pick and choose. This gives them the opportunity to try different textures and tastes and it also develops their hand-eye coordination. It can get messy, but you can minimise this by using a suctioned weaning tray from EasyTots, which will stay attached to the table or high chair.
Communicate your movements
When you are about to nip into the other room or upstairs, get into the habit of telling them what you are about to do even if it is just a simple, ‘bye bye’. This will prevent your toddler from suddenly realising that you are not there, and possibly panicking. If an adult is leaving for work or the shops, make a point of saying goodbye. This builds up trust and helps them to learn that their parents will return.
Gradually increase the duration of the separation
When toddlers start to seek independence, it is usually only for short periods at first as they feel the need to check in with their parents regularly. They will return for a boost of confidence and reassurance before toddling off again to do play. Over time, the duration of time that they are away from you will increase.
Provide verbal support and advice
If your toddler is in another room and calls out for your help or attention, before you drop what you are doing and run to them, try calling instead. A simple reassurance that you are coming soon or asking them questions before you come encourages them to become slightly more self-sufficient. When a toddler asks you for help or to do a task for them that they are capable of doing, try encouraging them to do it for themselves. They may need you to verbally guide them through the process, but it is important that children learn to solve their own problems.
Encourage them to socialise with different people The more people that a toddler meets the greater the likelihood that they will grow into a confident and social child. If you have other responsible adults in your family who can care for them occasionally, it is a good idea to let them spend time with grandparents, aunts, uncles and family friends. This teaches them that they can rely on lots of people for help and that they do not need to worry about being separated from their parents.